A Connection Between Creativity and Insanity?
Here is some interesting information I found on the link between
creativity and insanity.
A study at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has found that
people known as "schizotypes" may be able to function
normally and still have enhanced creativity due to their schizophrenic
tendencies. It seems that their greater creativity comes from
using more of the right side of the brain than most of us use.
They seem to be able to walk that proverbial fine line between
insanity and genius.
Schizotypes are generally considered somewhere between normal
and insane. They often have their own unique eccentricities,
but not the more extreme symptoms of schizophrenics, such as
hallucinations and paranoia. They may think in unusual ways,
dress differently, and have odd routines.
The evidence of a link between creativity and mental illness
has mostly been anecdotal in the past, although there have been
some studies showing correlation. The Vanderbilt study, on the
other hand, used brain-imaging technology to look at the creative
process. They started with a definition of creativity as the
ability to create something new from existing things and ideas,
and did two experiments to look at and compare what was going
on in the brains of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control
For example, subjects were asked to think of uses for a needle
and thread. Both the normal subjects and the schizophrenic ones
had fairly mundane ideas, such as sewing. On the other hand,
one schizotype suggested that a poor person could use the thread
to a ring for his fiancée, or use the needle to write
"I love you" in sand.
There was a marked tendency for the schizotypes to have more
creative ideas. This was also true in the second experiment,
when the groups were again asked to think of creative ways to
use household objects. This time, however, all subjects had their
brains monitored. Researchers used a brain-imaging technology
called near-infrared optical spectroscopy.
The brain scans showed that all subjects used both sides of
the brain when coming up with creative ideas. But the activity
was much higher in the brain's right hemisphere in the schizotypes.
Whether they have greater access to that hemisphere or more efficient
communication between the two sides isn't clear. What is clear
is that they are thinking differently than the general population.
Note: This study on the link between insanity and creative
thinking was reported in 2005 on LiveScience.com, and was detailed
in the journal Schizophrenia Research.
Most Recent Update
A Science Daily article
on creative people reports on more recent research. Researchers
at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that highly creative
people have a dopamine system which is similar to that of people
with schizophrenia. The article says that those people identified
as highly creative are more likely to have a family history of
mental illness. It hasn't been clear why this is true, but Fredrik
Ullén of the Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's
and Children's Health suggests that it has something to do with
the function of the dopamine systems in the brain, and points
out that other studies have shown that a people's dopamine receptor
genes are linked to their ability for divergent thought (which
is generally considered to be a measure of creativity).
Doctor Ullén says, "The study shows that highly
creative people who did well on the divergent tests had a lower
density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people...
Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this
part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental
illness and creativity." He added, "Thinking outside
the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact